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Friday 20 Feb 2009
Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Day 4 ... Mind over matter

Day 4  ... Barranco camp...
Day 4 ... Barranco camp...

And so beginneth the 4th day. The night before, the pit toilets at Barranco were disgusting (people had collectively decided it would have been better to piss on the floor than in the pit) so I was forced to venture out into the surrounding rocky area without a torch so that I wouldn't get spotted (it's illegal to crap in the natural surroundings apparently) in the pitch darkness and hope for the best in finding somewhere to "get busy". Thankfully all the ginger I'd been eating musta done the trick and removed that "bunged up" feeling I'd been suffering from for a while after drinking all the "hard water" (ok so ginger ain't all bad .. although at this stage I'd been force-fed so much of the stuff that my clothes stank of it with my ginger-y sweat... yick)

Day 4  ... An eagle....
Day 4 ... An eagle....

I'd heard many people on the internets (sic) say that the Barranco wall was a particularly hard section, and indeed it does look like it should be as it climbs up vertically several hundred metres. But to be honest as we ventured up the wall early in the morning, it was actually one of the easiest climbs I've done in a while.

Now I wasn't aware of this as we began the day, but the trek that we were about to do was going to be huge and is often spread out over TWO days! After the Barranco Wall the days trek was over fairly level uphill terrain with the occassional steep climb, no downhill at all. Not to mention the sun was beating down on us when the shade disappeared (thank God I brought my trusty factor 50+ Sundowner kangaroo skin hat from Australia ... I'll add that to my essential equipment list).

I forgot one important thing today though: I neglected to carry along any water sterilising tablets! And this was one particular day when I would require them the most...

After several hours, I ran out of drinking water (plain water this time of course), but Shanny assured me we only had a short part to go and we persevered onward. Shanny refilled both of my bottles with water from a nearby river, but I couldn't drink it. It was agony.

Day 4  ... Higher still
Day 4 ... Higher still

I quickly learnt to overestimate Shanny's statements like "short easy section" when I saw what was ahead of me: the short but steep and significant climb up to Taranga (3,930 m). I couldn't go on. Thankfully I noticed a pair of German hikers off in the distance about 10 minutes away from us ... I asked Shanny if we could pause a moment to let them catch up to us. I prayed that they would have water sterilising tablets.

Soon, Hans and Fritz (!) arrived carrying bags upon bags of sterilising tablets. I was overjoyed! Plonked two tablets into each bottle and then I'd have to wait 30 mins before I could drink them. Still the fact that I COULD eventually drink gave me an energy boost in itself and we proceed up the steep climb.

I felt a little let-down by Shanny for not warning me of this, but after ascending to Taranga I was presented with a most disturbing site: an uphill climb steeper than any before awaited me... stretching far ahead as far as my eyes could see.

I reached a mental wall. I couldn't go on.

Barely even able to reach the position to sit and have lunch, I lurched over the hiking stick that Shanny had lent me, gasping for air and energy. Eventually I stumbled up to the place where Abbas and Shanny were waiting for me (concerned looks in their faces obviously) and collapsed onto my back at their feet.

I noticed that about 80% of the people reaching this point were setting up tents here. "Why is that?" I enquired of Shanny. "This is the campsite for people who are taking 7 days" he replied. Aha!

At this point there was no way that I was going to be able to camp here too (although I really wanted to at the time) as Lawrence and Ali had already zoomed on ahead to the final camp (another 800m further up in altitude at our final destination: Barrafu camp (4,600m)). I was even seriously considering asking someone here if I could share their tent for the night .. although this would have been madness as I would have had no sleeping bag or warm clothes (or food for that matter).

Day 4  ... Looking down...
Day 4 ... Looking down...

Seeing the exhausted state I was in, Shanny proposed an elegant solution that might assist me. He would be able to carry my day pack (which now felt like a lead weight on my back, despite only holding my SLR camera) and water bottles by attaching them to his own. I felt bad about this, but literally this was the only way to go. I promised to myself that I would pay Shanny back with a good tip at the end for this...

This seemed to help somewhat. Walking heel-to-toe, extremely "pole-pole", we edged up the mountain over the following 3 hours taking momentary breaks, but making progress nonetheless.

Day 4  ... The guys take...
Welcome to the top!

Eventually we made it to the top of that huge hill, where I got a view out over the valley we had just ascended out of and all my crew were waiting for me patiently at the top like a huge welcoming committee.

We were going to make it, I promised them ... and they believed me with smiles all round.

A fairly flat walk remained and finally we reached Barrafu camp ... the last camp before the big final ascent.

A mini-celebration ensued and I bought the lads some beers! Laughing  I also bought some cokes and a Kilimanjaro beer for myself. Maybe it was the altitude, though, but the coke tasted disgusting and frothy, and the beer was really bad. Hmmm .. so much for celebrating ... that was to come tomorrow instead Cool

Having reached Barrafu, most people would go up the mountain at midnight that night (and had I taken a camp at Taranga I too probably would have been in a fine state to do that too), but considering I was suffering from a major headache and exhaustion, we moved it to start at 6am tomorrow morning.

When I arrived at the campsite I collapsed in the tent on the hard ground for an hour. I literally had no energy to unwrap my mattress or even to fix the tent's broken zip (again!) and so lay there in the cold, shivering, almost going into hypothermia!!

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Travel blog by peterforan

Day 3  ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro

Day 3 ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro

With Toto's defining tune ringing in my head, I don khaki pants and venture full-throttle into Africa! Elephants, lions, huge mountains, men with spears intent on stabbing me (probably) and the "Cradle of Humanity" (tm)... 4 weeks ain't gonna be enough!

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    Entrance to Machame town
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    Day 1 ...  Rain!
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    Day 1 ...  Shanny "Sean", the guide
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    Day 1  ... 2 bottles of water for support